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Introducing The Galápagos Islands

Much like the revolutionary scientific idea it’s become synonymous with, the Galápagos Islands may inspire you to think differently about the world. Nowhere else can you engage in a staring contest with wild animals and lose. You can’t help thinking you’ve stumbled upon an alternate universe, some strange utopian colony organized by sea lions – the golden retrievers of the Galápagos – and arranged on principles of mutual cooperation. Don’t come expecting to see bizarre wildlife – there are no half-penguin, half-turtle ‘penurtles, ’ no large mammals with shark fins. What’s truly special is that the creatures that call the islands home act as if humans are nothing more than slightly annoying paparazzi.

This is not the Bahamas – though some of the boats that cruise these islands will remind you of a Caribbean luxury resort – and these aren’t Pacific paradises; in fact, most of the islands are devoid of vegetation and look more like the moon than Hawaii. There are more humans living here than most people assume, more than 30, 000 and the population is growing; and for such isolated specks of land over 1000km from mainland Ecuador, there’s a surprising level of development – of course most of it is geared toward sustaining a thriving tourism industry.

The islands have taken on a mythological status. Their relationship with Charles Darwin, the islands’ most famous visitor who undoubtedly violated several park rules in riding and eating the Galápagos turtles, has become distorted and romanticized. Yet you don’t have to be an evolutionary biologist or an ornithologist to appreciate one of the few places left on the planet where the footprint of the human presence is kept to a minimum.

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